The Lakers have the spotlight once again in Los Angeles, but don’t sleep on the young Clippers.
For the majority of their tenure, the Clippers have been the Los Angeles’ second-rate team. A regular season usually has the Lakers making a run at the NBA Finals while the Clippers are guaranteed participants in the draft lottery.
Drafting power forward Blake Griffin in the 2009 NBA draft signaled a resurgence for the struggling Clippers, but even then, the team had to wait until the 2010-11 season for Griffin to recover from a broken kneecap.
The acquisition of point guard Chris Paul from the New Orleans Hornets increased the Clippers’ chances of having a successful run. The 2011-12 season saw both the Clippers and the Lakers with winning records, and they both made it to the second round of the playoffs.
Even with the Clippers’ recent success, the Lakers have found a way to outshine the emerging little brother by acquiring Dwight Howard and Steve Nash.
But the Clippers’ seemingly never-ending struggle to escape the shadow of their fellow Staples Center tenants may be coming to and end with the start of the 2012-13 NBA season.
While the current Clippers squad may not win more games than the star-studded Lakers, the Clippers are built for the long haul. The Lakers, on the other hand, have been formed to get the most out of Kobe Bryant’s last years. Bryant has already insinuated that he is unlikely to play after 2013-14 (via CBS Sports' Ken Berger).
Acquiring Steve Nash, who signed a three-year extension, only fuels the idea that the Lakers want the most out of Bryant. Considering that Nash, 38, is one of the oldest players in the NBA, he may play for less than three years, but this fits Kobe’s timetable nonetheless.
The Clippers, on the other hand, have a core of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan to work with for the foreseeable future. Paul is the oldest of the three, at 27 years old.
The age factor is a crucial determinant in the Los Angeles rivalry.
As productive as Nash and Bryant have been in the later stages of their careers, their productivity may decrease during the season. The combination of these two may also prove to be ineffective.
A Kobe Bryant-led Laker team has only allowed one point guard to average more than seven assists per game, according to ESPN. Assists, of course, are Steve Nash’s bread and butter, so Bryant may effectively limit Nash’s productivity.
There is no chemistry issue on the Clippers. Chris Paul has complete control of the offense and can lob it to either of the two aforementioned young big men when he is unable to score himself.
Depth will ultimately be the driving force behind a Clippers’ gradual ascension in Los Angeles.
The Lakers' primary source of production may come from Antawn Jamison and Steve Blake. Jamison did average 17.2 points per game as a Cleveland Cavalier last year, but that won't happen in L.A.
The Clippers have a great problem when it comes to their depth. The team is stacked with small forwards who can also play other positions.
The team currently has Grant Hill, Caron Butler, Matt Barnes and Travis Leslie at the position. They also have Lamar Odom on the roster, who played small forward as a Laker.
Given that the Lakers’ least productive starter is Metta World Peace, the Clippers’ depth may prove to be too much in a Staples Center matchup.
The Clippers also have two of the last three NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award recipients in Odom and Jamal Crawford, so don’t count this young Clipper team out yet.